Thursday, April 8, 2010

Where are ya?

Did you know that of the twenty two Segunda A teams for 2009/10, only fourteen actually carry the name of their host city? Thought not, would you like to know who doesn't together with allsorts of other inane trivia? thought not again, but fuck it, I'll tell you anyway. Spookily enough, at the time of writing, to the unfamiliar it's not at all obvious whereabouts exactly the top three in the classification call home. With twelve games and two and a half odd months to go, Real Sociedad sit on top of the pile closely by followed Hercules, who we're all familiar with, and then Real Betis. The prefix "Real" as everybody should ought to know literally means 'Royal' the deeper significance though is probably not so well known. Spain, just like Great Britain, has historically had a functioning Monarchy, together with, the one eyed Scottish tosser aside, an elected political leadership. Prime Minister and assorted Government functionaries or not, Spain has always had His Majesty and Queenie bimbling about in the background and only with his or her Royal Assent can a sporting society, (football team in this example), prefix themselves Real.

Sorry, I digress, but back to the question.With apologies to Everton fans wherever you are and to butcher part of their football song "if you know ya geography"  you'll know that leaders Real Sociedad, Hercules CF and present third placed outfit Real Betis entertain locals every second Sunday in San Sebastian, Alicante and Seville respectively. By the way, Betis' Ruiz de Lopera stadium is the biggest in the division with a capacity of over 55,000, easily bigger than the majority of this year's Primera Division sides home grounds. A few years ago Andalucian businessman Sr.Manuel Ruiz de Lopera, with the club facing bankruptcy and extinction, put his hand in his pocket to ensure the club's survival. For sure an expensive way to put your name on a football stadium but I'd do the same for Santa Pola CF if they were in the shit and I was minted.

Elsewhere in the second division, most of the names speak for themselves, Elche, Cordoba, Cartagena, Salamanca, Real Murcia and Albacete for example to name but a few. On this list of what appears to be a random selection of nondescript football clubs, Albacete stand out and join Real Betis as one of only two who also include in their full titles the Spanish words for ball and foot, literally "Balompie" I could go on for ages with completely uninteresting facts about the Segunda A, ever so many of which refer to Real Betis, a team that has spent more than thirty of the previous forty seasons doing the business with some success in La Liga. Visualize a decent sized English town, say Newcastle and combine it with some serious footy folk, in this example the Toon Army, and you can kind of get my drift. Unfortunately, a tasty stadium, full most weeks with tasty locals who can sing a bit doesn't seem to be a blue print for continued top flight soccer. Sporadic relegations are a fact of "Verdiblanco" life with the most recent, in May 2009, being greeted by riots outside the ground after Betis could only draw 1-1 with Valladolid, a result which sent them down.

Perhaps surprisingly, Madrid features just the one team in this seasons Liga Adelante. Rayo Vallecano take their name from the populous Vallecas district to the South East of Spain's capital city in which the club is based. Aside from the occasional decent season, Rayo are one of those clubs a bit like West Brom or West Ham, up and down like a whores drawers. Around the league the club is noteworthy for having the only female President in Spanish professional football. Maria Teresa Rivero is her name, and this 74 year old Andalucian from Jerez assumed the presidency in 1994 from her husband, Jose Maria, who, some years earlier had been banged up in jail for his part in a financial scandal that engulfed the family firm. Senora Rivero has also found time to spawn thirteen children, none recently I must add!!

My patch, Valencia, which features the provinces of Alicante, Castellon and Valencia is well represented and is actually home to five top flight clubs, Herc', Elche, Villarreal B, Castellon and Levante. The next best is Andalucia with Betis, Cordoba, Cadiz and Spanish football's very first professional outfit Real Club Recreativo de Huelva, who were founded in 1889 by a couple of British blokes. Not as old as Notts County but a good effort nevertheless. In the far north west of Spain, not many kilometres from the Portugese border sits the biggest city not designated a provinvial capital, Vigo, a city that houses the Balaidos stadium, home to Real Club Celta de Vigo.

Sixty thousand people live in Irun, which, if it was any further north they'd all be speaking French, the city is strategically important as a main border crossing from the Basque province of Guipuzcoa into France, the width of the River Bidasoa away. Twice a season the local football team Real Union take on their near neighbours and local rivals Real Sociedad from just down the road in San Sebastian. In point of fact Sociedad actually have four times more season ticket holders than the 5,000 capacity of Real Union's tiny Gal stadium. That shouldn't be an issue in 2010/11 becase this season Real Sociedad are storming the the division and look likely to be playing in La Primera next year while Union are deep in the shit at the foot of the Segunda A table.

Finally, spare a thought for Las Palmas, by rights they should be playing in the Moroccan first division because geographically they're nearer to Africa than mainland Spain. This season they had to make do without their local derby as well because Tenerife went up to the first division. Now, the nearest rivals for the Canary Islanders are a ninety minute flight away in somewhere like Cadiz, Cordoba or Huelva. On the upside, sort of, at least the lads don't have to endure interminable coach trips to their away games I 'spose!!

Top - Betis President Manuel Ruiz de Lopera
Below - Murcia's stunning Nueva Condomina stadium
Next - Right, obviously, Maria Teresa Rivera
Bottom - Las Palmas stretch their legs after yet another long flight

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